TAMPA — This is, unfortunately, Bucs (bad) luck.
Tom Brady left the Patriots after 20 seasons, and the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback chose to continue his career in Tampa Bay. The result? Raymond James Stadium was nearly sold out with fans who had decided to purchase season tickets.
But because of safety rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some Bucs fans may be left holding the short end of the ThunderStix.
In a letter to season pass members Thursday, Bucs Chief Operating Officer Brian Ford said the team will be unable to re-seat everyone who purchased tickets.
The total seating capacity still is being determined. But in accordance to government and NFL rules, the Bucs plan to tarp the first seven rows in the lower bowl and must socially distance groups of season ticket holders 6 feet, significantly reducing attendance in the 65,618-seat stadium.
But if fans opt to have their season ticket payment for 2020 credited toward 2021, they alone will have access to a priority pre-sale for single-game tickets this season. Priority for the pre-sale will be based on tenure. The longer you have had season tickets with the Bucs — a team that hasn’t reached the postseason in 12 years — the better chance you have in the pre-sale.
All season pass members who want to declare their option or request a full refund can log into their account beginning 8 a.m. Friday, July 31. All refund requests most be received on or before Sunday, Aug. 9. Ticket holders will not lose their tenure or seats for 2021.
Pricing for individual tickets and how many will be available has yet to be determined.
“The excitement and extremely high demand had resulted in a near sell-out situation on a season pass basis for all home games this season,” Ford said in the letter. “We had hoped to have Raymond James Stadium filled with valued Season Pass Members like yourself to welcome Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to Tampa and provide an unmatched home field advantage. While we share in your disappointment, we remain optimistic for what still promises to be a very memorable season of Buccaneers football.
“Unfortunately, we will be unable to fairly re-seat the entire season pass member base across a limited number of seats. Therefore, we are currently working to determine a capacity that is safe for our fans, staff and players.”
All premium ticket holders in suites, Hall of Fame Club and Legends Club will receive additional information.
Jayme Lindsey is the kind of fan the Bucs need. The 41-year-old Plant City resident has had a season pass since 2014, which means he has witnessed one winning season while cheering for his favorite team. Yet every Sunday, he paints his face to transform into his alter ego, Buccaneer Warrior, screaming his lungs out from the second row of the north end zone.
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“The only thing is they gave us a deadline for the refunds without knowing the single-game ticket prices,” Lindsey said. “Wish I knew so I could make a decision.”
Jennifer Miller or Orlando has been a season pass holder since 2016. She upgraded her tickets to the Hyundai Club last year.
She also worries the price of single-game tickets could soar. “Just received my email (and) I’m not impressed with the plan as for single (game) tickets,” Miller said. “They could be double the price since tickets will be high in demand.”
What are the options for non-season pass members to see a game in person? Individual game tickets available for those fans will be determined by the response to the pre-sale.
Several weeks ago, the Jets and Giants announced they would not be able to play games in front of fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The Ravens have said they will limit attendance to 14,000, and the Jaguars plan to operate TIAA Bank Stadium at 25 percent capacity.
Here’s more of what we know about Bucs tickets:
What do I have to do if I want my 2020 payment to be credited for 2021 and be eligible for the pre-sale?
Log into your account manager and check the credit option. If you choose not to opt out, you don’t have to do anything. You will be automatically credited and eligible to participate in the pre-sale.
Will season pass members get tickets to every game at Raymond James Stadium?
That seems highly unlikely. The goal for the Bucs will be to get as many season pass holders to as many games as possible, but priority will be based on loyalty. If you just leaped on the Brady bandwagon, you’re not as fortunate as long-time passengers.
Will season pass members be guaranteed at least as many seats as tickets they have purchased?
Not necessarily. If you have a block of 11 or 12, social-distancing rules would prevent that. But the Bucs likely will try to accommodate as many as the guidelines will permit.
Where will my new seats be if I am awarded the right to purchase single-game tickets?
The team will give you the option to select your seats available at your price point through the pre-sale process.
What if I choose to opt out for the regular season, but want a chance to purchase playoff tickets?
It’s allowed. Without getting too presumptuous, fans would have to push their purchase for 2020 ahead to 2021 in order to be considered for postseason tickets. If you opt for a refund, you will not have the opportunity to buy postseason tickets if RJS still under a reduced capacity.
Can I go to more than one game if I roll my season pass money to 2021?
The availability of tickets is yet to be determined, but plan is to give every season ticket holder a chance to choose at least one game. Depending on the response to the pre-sale, the opportunity to attend more games may be added.
Can I sell my seats for 2020 on the secondary market if I keep my season pass money for 2021?
TicketMaster and StubHub are NFL partners, so yes. But keep in mind that you have to sell your whole block of tickets. If you have six, you can’t keep four and sell two on the secondary market.
What if guidelines permit an increased capacity at a later date?
If the Bucs are able to have a full or increased capacity crowd for any future 2020 season games, including playoffs, you will be given priority access to purchase tickets for those games.
What about my pre-paid parking?
Credits and refunds will be handled in the same manner as past seasons.
What if I’m enrolled in a monthly payment plan?
Payments were not processed for July 15. However, payment plan disclosures for 2021 will be sent separately.
Ford says he hopes to have more information soon, but first the Bucs need to determine how many season ticket holders are opting in or out for this season before they can make single-game tickets available.
In addition to Brady and Gronkowski making the Bucs among the favorites in the NFC this season, they have an attractive home schedule that includes the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
But keep the faith, Tampa Bay fans. Maybe there will be more seats available in Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7 if the Bucs reach Super Bowl 55.